That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

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Synopsis from Goodreads: Thirty years ago, on their Cape Cod honeymoon, Jack and Joy Griffin made a plan for their future that has largely been fulfilled. He left Los Angeles behind for the sort of New England college his parents had aspired to, and now the two of them are back on the Cape—where he’d also spent his childhood vacations—to celebrate the marriage of their daughter Laura’s best friend. Sure, Jack’s been driving around with his father’s ashes in the trunk, though his mother’s very much alive and often on his cell phone. Laura’s boyfriend seems promising, but be careful what you pray for, especially if it happens to come true. A year later, at her wedding, Jack has another urn in the car, and both he and Joy have brought new dates. Full of every family feeling imaginable, wonderfully comic and profoundly involving, That Old Cape Magic is surprising, uplifting and unlike anything this Pulitzer Prize winner has ever written.

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My thoughts: Jack Griffin was raised by two incredibly cynical and judgmental people. He spends his life trying to forget, or get past the fact, that they are his parents. That Old Cape Magic is about a year in Jack’s life – a year of upheaval. He’s in his 50s and things have come undone. After carrying his parents’ ashes around in the trunk of his car for months, he is faced with having to get rid of them – both from his trunk and his life – or, at the very least, come to terms with them. Easier said than done.

Richard Russo takes us along for the ride and what a ride it is. Readers of a certain age will probably identify with Jack at some point. As we follow him over the course of a year, we learn a lot about his upbringing. I don’t know how he made it out of childhood intact. Well, I guess he made it – but not intact. Good grief! Eventually he met and married Joy and set out to live life far away from his parents (but near her family). More than thirty years later Jack is forced into making decisions about his future while pondering his past. You’ll have to find out yourself how it all plays out. In the end, it was the novel I’ve come to expect from Russo.

The Whore’s Child and Other Stories by Richard Russo

The Whore's Child by Richard Russo: Book Cover

Back of the book: To this irresistible debut collection of short stories, Richard Russo brings the same bittersweet wit, deep knowledge of human nature, and spellbinding narrative gifts that distinguish his bestselling novels. His themes are the imperfect bargains of marriage; the discoveries and disillusionments of childhood; the unwinnable battles men and women insist on fighting with the past.
Even my favorite author couldn’t make me a fan of the short story. That said, I was intrigued by The Whore’s Child which is about a nun who attends a college Fiction class (without enrolling) and writes about how she ended up at a convent. I think Poison is a great idea for a book. Another story, The Farther You Go, was worked into Russo’s book Straight Man (if I remember correctly). I really liked that book (much more than the short story). My issue with this form is I’m always left wanting more – that there’s something missing. My problem, I know.

Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo

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From the back of the book: Louis Charles Lynch (also known as Lucy) is sixty years old and has lived in Thomaston, New York, his entire life. He and Sarah, his wife of forty years, are about to embark on a vacation to Italy. Lucy’s oldest friend, once a rival for his wife’s affection, leads a life in Venice far removed from Thomaston. Perhaps for this reason Lucy is writing the story of his town, his family, and his own life that makes up this rich and mesmerizing novel, interspersed with that of the native son who left so long ago and has never looked back.
As I read Bridge of Sighs I kept coming back to the thought that it’s all about the secrets and lies we tell others and ourselves about our lives. The truth as we want it. The best possible truth – which usually leads to feelings of guilt and inadequacy. But people do what they need to do to get by – to deal with the actual truths that shape their lives. This is the story of the Lynch family and others who do just that.

I have to say I was really wondering when and where it (the story) would finally end… until the last 200 pages. That’s when it turned into the book I didn’t want to end. If you’re a fan of Richard Russo this book should not disappoint. I hope he has more books in him because I’m not ready to be finished reading them.